The Indian variant of Covid-19 is set to become the dominant strain in Derbyshire, says the county's public health director.
This comes as Derbyshire County Council confirmed that there have now been five cases of the India-originating Covid-19 variant – three in the Glossop area, one in the Dales and one in Long Eaton.
Dean Wallace, the county council’s public health director, has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he expects the Indian variant to become the dominant strain in Derbyshire, as has happened in Bolton and Blackburn.
He reiterates that the Indian variant is not showing signs that it is more harmful or that it bypasses the Covid-19 vaccines, but that it is proving to be more transmissible – it spreads more easily.
Mr Wallace says there has been a small “uptick” in cases in the Glossop area, near Derbyshire’s border with Tameside in Greater Manchester.
He said infection rates in Long Eaton – tied to the Wilsthorpe School outbreak – were now dipping rapidly, showing it was tied purely to the school and not the town. This is a situation much-like the outbreak at Sudbury Prison in the Dales in March.
The Glossop area has previously been a cause for concern ahead of the rest of the county and was the first to be put into localised restrictions last October – the only sub-borough area in England to receive them.
Mr Wallace says that because the Indian variant is more transmissible, Derbyshire residents need to be more “strict” with their adherence to Covid measures such as social distancing, hand sanitising, wearing a face mask and meeting outdoors.
He says actions which some may previously have been able to get away with will not work.
Mr Wallace said: “I do expect the Indian variant to become our dominant variant (the Kent variant).
“In the North West we are seeing the Indian variant outcompeting our variant and it is quite difficult to get that genie back in the bottle. You could, but the effort would have to be immense.
“I expect that we will start to see more of the Indian variant and it is a bit of a race now between that and vaccinations – to vaccinate as many people as possible before the variant spreads more widely.
“This new wave of Covid will feel very different. The way it rolls through the population will be different – because much of the elderly population and most vulnerable are vaccinated – but not without a cost.”
Mr Wallace also confirmed that there was a “risk” that health inequalities would continue to widen through parts of the population which are more deprived, having less of an ability to access Covid vaccinations and testing, along with the ability to self-isolate.
He said we can expect to see case levels grow again over the next few weeks and that cases are higher in the 18-40 age groups, which are largely unvaccinated and many have to leave the house for work.
The county council confirmed four cases of the Indian variant had been identified in Derbyshire yesterday (May 18), four days after the first case had been found in Long Eaton, as well as a case of the South African variant.
On Monday (May 17) Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that 86 local authorities had identified five or more cases of the Indian variant.
At the time, he said, there were 2,323 cases of the variant in the UK, 483 of which were in Bolton and Blackburn – where it is now the dominant strain.
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